Quick guide on how you could actively get involved in improving your app’s usability

Usability has become a necessary condition in today’s growing software industry. It takes a user about 5 seconds to decide whether or not he will use or leave your website. This is because we are presented with so many options in software that it’s safe to assume that if we don’t like a certain app, we would find an alternative.

Usability is the perfect mix of intuitive, efficient and satisfying when it comes to applications. It focuses on customer satisfaction, user-centered design and building trust and credibility. This will later result in high conversion rates, recurring users and saving money within your company if it’s taken into account at the right time.

Often times, we encounter usability problems or things which don’t click in our app. These problems are usually brought up and analysed by people who are concerned with the overall quality of the application, it’s not exclusively a tester’s job, or a UX person’s responsibility to do so. The first impulse when we encounter such an issue is to go directly to the developers who implemented that part or the stakeholders who requested it to be like that. The issue here is that by doing this, it looks like we present our own personal and subjective opinion which is not necessarily a good approach.

A more efficient way to get better results out of a situation like this would imply three extra steps:

  1. The first step would be to do some research on the problem at hand and come up with a few solid arguments to why that problem could have a negative impact on the way users interact with the application.
  2. Just coming up with arguments to why something is not OK is usually not enough. This is because the next logical question of the involved parties would be ‘OK but if we don’t leave it like this, how do we do it?’. This means that the second phase would be to have some alternatives or suggestions ready from which the team can choose. If this was not done, brainstorm a solution within the team. For this step I personally use moqups.com to create my mock-ups, wireframes and prototypes since it’s really easy to use, it has a large variety of features and it gets the job done in a short time. There is a multitude of alternatives to this application but I personally haven’t used any of them but your mock-up & wireframing app of choice would suffice for this step.
  3. Often times even if the team comes up with a better alternative, presenting it to the decision makers could be troublesome especially if they are not particularly open to change. Here we can take it a step forward, and besides from presenting the arguments and the alternatives, we could show the stakeholders some aggregated results which come from real users who were shown various alternatives and picked the best one. This can easily be done with a great online tool called usability hub.

It’s designed for performing user testing by showing various designs and versions of a particular page or application flows to users chosen by you, or paid users which are part of the usability hub community.

This nifty app comes with 5 different types of user tests which can cover most of the testing needs when it comes to selecting one version or another. These tests are:

  1. Question test — for this test you simply upload a design and correlate it to a question you want your testers to answer about the design. By doing this you can confirm an idea that you had about a certain design/feature or on the contrary, analyse the results and discover that users don’t get the message you are trying to send. This is also helpful because you know you have to change something.
  2. Five second test — this type of test is ideal in the situation where first impressions matter. You have to upload a design, your testers will see it for 5 seconds after which you ask them a series of questions which are relevant for the things you want to find out.
  3. Click test — this is an excellent choice when you want to test out whether a call to action button is suggestive enough for a user. You simply have to show the tester a design and ask where he would click to perform a certain action. At the end of the test you get a heatmap showing where most users would click to perform that action.
  4. Navigation test — the navigation test is an extended variation of the click test, the difference being that you don’t test only 1 action but an entire flow. For each step, you have to highlight a certain area on the screen during the creation phase of the navigation test. If the tester clicks that area, he is able to progress to the next step in order to complete his goal. If not the test ends and you might get some evidence that a flow is not intuitive enough to be released to or simply identify why/ where real users get stuck in your application.
  5. Preference test — this is one of my personal favourites and it’s used to highlight 2 or more variations of the same items. This can prove highly valuable to deciding on a new feature or change because you can target specialised people and get relevant feedback from trained professionals.

No matter what type of test you choose, it’s easy and cheap to do some real user testing, get some relevant results and then, based on your results maybe re-run some tests and see if there have been any improvements.

The tool is not only destined for testers, anyone in a cross functional team can develop such a test and actively help in improving their apps usability.



Software tester passionate about coffee and reading ☕📚

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